My First Tea Leaf Reading Experience

Tarot and Tea Leaf Readings by Tabitha Dial
Tarot and Tea Leaf Readings by Tabitha Dial

Prior to getting a tea leaf reading from Tabitha Dial over at Tarot and Tea Leaf Readings, I didn’t know much about the practice. Okay, I still don’t know much about the practice, but my perspective has definitely shifted. Tea leaf reading, or tasseography, is a cross-cultural divinatory practice that I’d seen done before, heard about through my childhood, but never delved into. So I had no idea what to expect from Tabitha.

I asked her about the trajectory of my book writing and publishing endeavors, but also kept open to any related messages that might come through. For my reading, she sent over a five-page single-spaced write-up accompanied by four large, full-color photographs. Tabitha used loose leaf black tea and as the leaves were steeping in the water, a strawberry symbol formed at the bottom of the cup. You can see it quite clearly here:

2015.08.09 Tabitha Dial Tea Leaf Reading 1 (Strawberry)

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Mahjong Divination

Mah Jong - Box 2

While there is no historical verification that tarot descended from mahjong, their striking similarity in structure and the cosmological or philosophical correspondences associated with the playing pieces is still worth noting. Both seem to be subdivided into Trump cards and Minors, and within the Minors, further subdivisions into suits, with each suit numbered into pip cards or tiles. Both were intended for games, but both are also used for divination.

Recently I’ve been inspired to hunt down my own mahjong set, but there is a reason Chinese people get special tables for mahjong– the darn thing takes up a lot of space. There’s just a crap ton of tiles that make annoying clicking sounds when you shuffle, and the tiles remind me of Joy Luck Club or something, I don’t know. I knew I wouldn’t be using my set for games, and it’d be strictly for divination study. Intuitively, a whole set of mahjong tiles (the standard click-clack ones Chinese folk play with) didn’t feel right in my reading room, my personal sacred space. So. I opted for a more discrete alternative– mahjong in the form of cards. They have that now! It’s awesome. It’s a deck of 144 cards.

Mah Jong - Box 1

I’m using a cute little deck referred to simply as “Chinese Mahjong: Deck of 144 Cards for Oriental Play” published by Yellow Mountain Imports. You can get it off Amazon for all of five bucks. It’s great. The card quality is kind of meh. They didn’t produce this particular deck with esoteric or spiritual work in mind, that’s for sure. There’s a tacky high-gloss laminate and as you can see from the photos, it’s very, very basic in card imagery.

Mah Jong "Minors," Suit of Wheels
Mah Jong “Minors,” Suit of Wheels
Mah Jong "Minors," Suit of Bamboo
Mah Jong “Minors,” Suit of Bamboo
Mah Jong "Minors," Suit of Characters
Mah Jong “Minors,” Suit of Characters

Mahjong consists of 3 suits: Wheels, Bamboo, and Characters. The 3 suits are correspondent with Heaven, Earth, and Man, after the Chinese cosmological concept of the Trinity of Lucks.

Heaven Luck represents circumstances you’re born into, beyond your control, like the social class of your parents or innate talents and physical attributes, i.e. nature. Heaven Luck is believed to be pre-ordained.

Earth Luck is your geographical location, and how where you are affects what you do or who you become, i.e., nurture. Earth Luck is your environment and how your environment helps or hinders your success.

Man Luck is free will, what you do with yourself, the choices you make, your education, your actions, behavior, attitude, etc.

Additionally, Wheels often indicate life circumstances, events, conditions, or things that “happen” to you, things beyond your control that you’re just going to have to figure out how to deal with, the cards you’ll get dealt; Bamboo will talk about wealth, finances, money matters, security; Characters talk about career, education.

Super-traditionally here, marriage was seen as orchestrated by the fates, and so might get expressed in a reading through the Wheels, or if some important things were about to go down, with the Honors or Supreme Honors (more on that later). So it wasn’t like in tarot divination where you might have a whole suit (i.e., Cups) associated with love, relationships, and our emotional plane. The emotional plane wasn’t really seen as this whole separate matter that might require its own suit. So there wasn’t a suit for it. Interesting cultural differences here, me thinks.

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I Ching Divinations in the Month of December for a Twitter Follow


For the month of December, 2014, ending right before New Year’s Eve, I am offering I Ching divinations in exchange for following me on Twitter.

Okay come on. That’s like basically free, people. And if you’re already following me on Twitter, then it is free. Just let me know!

These are not full readings, by the way, and you will be meeting me half-way in terms of work. Let me explain.

I’ve been tackling my own translation and annotations of the I Ching so that I no longer need to work off any of the current English translations. So that’s what I’ll be using for these divinations–my own work product.

To get your I Ching divination from me, here’s what you have to do:

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This Is Goofy: The Radio Is Talking To Me

Italiano: Radio Marea (1950) by Fabiomoie
Italiano: Radio Marea (1950) by Fabiomoie

So I’m driving to work in the morning stuck in a rush hour traffic jam. My car is effectively parked on the freeway and I’m running late for a meeting. I mutter obscenities and am freaking out about whether I’ll make it to my meeting on time. Just then my finger inadvertently pushes the change-radio-station button on my car steering wheel and it’s Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” or a snippet of it.

Chill out, whatcha yellin’ for?

That’s all I hear before I hit the change-station button again and I catch the start of my current #1 favorite song, Enrique Inglesias – “Bailando.”

I’m happy now. Super happy. Because “Bailando” makes me happy. Also it’s not easy to catch the start of a song you like off the radio. You always land on it mid-way through or near the end. This time, I got to hear “Bailando” in the entirety. A gift from the Universe.

What? . . . It is.

That wasn’t the first time stuff streaming out from the radio made sense with what was going on with me in the moment. I gave a shallow example, but it was the most recent. Other times much more serious stuff was going on when randomized snippets of songs from the radio didn’t seem so random and played just when they needed to be played.

The other day an author, psychologist, and acclaimed academic had on the signature line of his e-mail the following quote: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” ― Albert Einstein.

Yes, I thought. Yes.

Not that I’m saying God has nothing better to do than to talk to me through the lyrics of pop music playing on radio stations. But still.


Anyway I did have a tarot point in all this. So often the messages we get from tarot are like those inexplicable coincidental (or synchronous) moments with the radio. I’m not claiming that those weirdly-timed snippets of pop songs are a form of divination. (Radiomancy? Hey, it’s got an Urban Dictionary entry; must be a real thing.) But it’s a synchronicity that, given the timing and given what’s going on in our lives at that moment, takes on personal significance that causes us to reevaluate what we’re doing or where we’re headed. It’s a moment of strong connection between ourselves and something bigger and greater, something that often feels divine.

Like many a tarot reader, I get that handful of clients who either want to be willfully ignorant of my ethical approach to tarot or who, in spite of knowing that I don’t do fortune-telling come to me anyway wanting me to tell them their fortunes. They are always the same clients who end up disappointed when I don’t tell them that their futures hold great riches and it will all be a beautiful fairytale ending, happily ever after with their preferred lovers. Worse yet, I feel used and my skills abused.

Yes, tarot does shine the way for us and can help illuminate our life path so we see clearer, but it doesn’t give us an easy solution. There are no easy solutions and if you’re getting a tarot reading with the hope of hearing an easy solution to your problems, then I’m afraid you don’t possess the wisdom to properly use tarot as a tool and really shouldn’t be going to readings at all.

Hearing “Bailando” on the radio didn’t solve the traffic jam. It didn’t change any of the conditions of the road I was driving on. However, it changed my mindset. And made the condition not only bearable, but pleasant. That moment of connection with the divine, that coincidence, that so-called radiomancy wasn’t about making the traffic jam go away or asking or wondering whether I would make it to my meeting on time. It was about me, and how I’d spend every moment of my time on that freeway. I could spend it cussing and wondering about the unknown, or I could roll with it and sing to “Bailando.”

Often the messages we get through tarot are synchronous, coincidental in ways that convince you it wasn’t just a coincidence, but because the message didn’t contain the answers or easy solutions we wanted to hear, we dismiss it and miss that moment of connection with God. And what a shame that would be.

A Tarot Reading Technique: The Eta Method

The Eta Method - 00

I refer to the following tarot reading technique as The Eta Method. It’s not a spread exactly, but rather a process, a method for divinatory reading. “Eta” refers to revelation. It is believed that the decoded esoteric meaning of the Greek letter H (Eta) is that of revelation. Read more here. It fits with my understanding, my intentions, and the purpose of this reading procedure. Hence, The Eta Method.

In a nutshell, The Eta Method is this:

(1) selecting a signifier,

(2) performing a modern (and my personal) adaptation of the First Operation,

(3) reading and interpreting cards in certain positions in the First Operation,

(4) considering the degrees and thus numerology, and

(5) considering the elements.

The following explanation of the method may imply that it’s exhaustive, but I swear to you it is not. Granted, while it is not impossible to do it in 15 minutes, it will come across as rushed and I wouldn’t recommend it. However, it is absolutely doable within 30, so long as the practitioner limits the seeker’s questions and personal stories to the very end of the reading (because you know how that goes). The best practice for The Eta Method is for 1 hour sessions, but again, suitable for 20-30 minutes. It’s most definitely not like The Opening of the Key.

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Minchiate Cards for Divination: My Review


It is said that like tarot, the origins of the minchiate are not verifiable, but was probably a card game played in the late medieval period. The version I have at home is a reproduction of the Etruria deck from 18th century Florence. Like tarot, the imagery on the cards and scope of the depictions seem extraordinarily well suited for spiritual, metaphysical, or divination work and in many ways, the minchiate even more so than tarot.

There are 97 cards in total, consisting of trumps like tarot, 22 with the addition of 4 cards representing the theological virtues, 4 cards representing the elements, and 12 cards representing the zodiac signs. That’s 41 trumps and 56 numbered cards, with the numbered cards similar to tarot: 4 suits, Ace through Ten, and then 4 court cards.

The photograph below shows the unnumbered Madman (corresponding with tarot’s The Fool) and Keys I, II, III, IIII (IV), and V. Key I is the Performer, which corresponds with tarot’s The Magician. Keys II, III, and IIII (IV) in the minchiate are the Grand Duke, the Western Emperor, and the Eastern Emperor, which some say correspond with tarot’s Empress, Emperor, and Hierophant respectively. Key V is Love, corresponding with tarot’s Key VI, The Lovers.

The numbering of the keys in the Minchiate is significantly different from the tarot. For example, in minchiate the Temperance card is Key VI while in tarot it is Key XIV. There is no Hermit card per se, but there is Father Time, which is said to correspond with the Hermit. Most notably, the final card of the Trumps is not The World as in tarot, but rather the Trumpets, corresponding with the tarot Judgement card.


After the minchiate Key XV The Tower, there are the four theological virtues: Key XVI, Hope; Key XVII, Prudence; Key XVIII, Faith, and Key XIX, Charity. See below.


Although there is no direct correspondent in minchiate to the tarot High Priestess card, some speculate that the Faith card corresponds with the High Priestess. For me, in the Etruria deck, the illustrations are confusing. The picture on the first card above calls to mind Faith for me, but it’s the Hope card. The second card (left to right) reminds me of vanity for some reason, rather than a virtue, and yet it’s Prudence. The third card shows a woman, likely from the laboring class, looking at or reading something. It only somewhat fits my conception of Faith. The last card, Charity– either you know the meaning or you don’t. Little about the card’s imagery strikes me as denoting charity. But hey, this is all just me.


Following the four theological virtues are the four classical elements in the following order: Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. (Compare that to the order of the elements per the contemporary majority view in tarot practice: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.) When the Fire card appears in a reading, it suggests the relevance of innovation, passion, ambition, and leadership. The Water card denotes alliances, intuition, and compassion. The Earth card, stability, conservatism, conviction, and resourcefulness. Air, idealism, intellectualism, communication, and also ambition, though the Fire-based ambition usually relates to progress while the Air-based ambition relates to conquest.


In the minchiate there are also cards for the 12 signs of the zodiac. Pictured above in the numerical order they appear in the trumps:

Top Row (L to R): Libra, Virgo, Scorpio, Aries, Capricorn, Sagittarius

Bottom Row (L to R): Cancer, Pisces, Aquarius, Leo, Taurus, Gemini

After the Trumps, the 56 numbered cards in the minchiate are similar to the tarot. There are four suits and their correspondences are as follows: Wands for work or career; Chalices (Cups) for emotions and relationships; Pentacles for money matters; and Swords for the abstract and philosophical. Among the court cards, Knaves (or Pages) denote education and learning; Knights about courage, action, and choice; Queens about a relationship; and Kings about decision-making and authority. Note further that the minchiate correspondents to the Pages are specifically 2 Knaves for the active suits (Fire and Air) and 2 Maids for the passive suits (Water and Earth).

Continue reading “Minchiate Cards for Divination: My Review”

Myth of the Divination-Fulfilling Prophecy

There is a view, a fear of so-called divinatory practices that many hold, which I don’t think had a name before. I’m hereby referencing it as the Divination-Fulfilling Prophecy.

“I’m afraid to get a tarot reading. If the cards predict something terrible, then I’m scared that it will happen for sure, because the cards predicted it. Tarot reading is a form of tempting fate. As long as I never get a tarot reading or partake in divinatation practices, then my future remains uncertain, and that’s better.”

As a tarot practitioner I often hear that sentiment from would-be seekers. A commonly held belief of the tarot, or any form of divination for that matter, is that it possesses the power to fulfill its own prophecy. If the tarot predicts an unfortunate outcome, then even if a person’s future was unfixed before, the power of that prediction will now make the unfortunate outcome fixed for sure. Thereafter, nothing a person does can prevent the outcome because the act of the divination has caused the future to become fixed. Had a person not sought divination, then that future would have remained unfixed. I refer to this belief as the myth of the divination-fulfilling prophecy. The divination-fulfilling prophecy assumes that the tarot, or any divination tool, possesses the power to nullify free will, and divination simply does not have that kind of power. I find the divination-fulfilling prophecy concept to be gravely suspect. I hope this article will explain why.


The future is never certain. Rather, there is a mathematical probability that an outcome will happen based on certain decisions made in the present. That probable outcome is rendered even more complex based on the decisions that others make. Events are one variable. A person’s attitude is another. His or her personality characteristics are more variables. Nature is a factor, so is nurture. Other people’s actions that lead them to either cross paths with the person also have an impact. There is a formula that can take these variables into consideration based on the given moment and that metaphysical formula of sorts will calculate the most probable outcome. That is the so-called future predicted by the tarot.

However, changes in those variables will change the probable outcome. If the tarot reveals an outcome to be unfortunate, then that is an indication that the inputted variables need to be adjusted. Isn’t that information anyone would want to know in advance? Thus, while some view the tarot as a tool for the passive, I view it as a tool for the assertive. The tarot is for the person who likes roadmaps and milestones, the go-getter who likes to chart his or her progress through life, write resolutions, make checklists, or carry a planner.

The cards tap into your limitless subconscious to mine out what you already know. Every decision we make affects the path we’re taking toward our future. A decision could keep us on the same course and lead to that most probable outcome if we stay the course, or it could take us off course on a new, different path. That is why the future can never be set in stone. The divination-fulfilling prophecy is a myth. When people say the cards can predict the future, what they really mean is the cards can reveal to you the most likely destination of your current journey based on which forks you’ve chosen to take in the road. When you make adjustments, you change your future.

I do not believe for a second that what the cards reveal will absolutely happen. I believe that the cards are a flashlight that you can use to illuminate the dark terrain we walk through in life. If there are jagged rocks up ahead, the flashlight will shine on that, and we can diverge in time to take a different route. Shining the flashlight and seeing the jagged rocks does not mean we must walk straight onto them. Likewise, using the tarot to illuminate where we’re going does not mean we must continue on that path. As mentioned earlier, the tarot is also a flashlight that helps to illuminate our subconscious. It draws out what we already know but are not consciously aware of. It presents that information in the cards so that we may confront it. When we confront it, we can make adjustments to our actions, our attitudes and outlook, and thereby change the variables for a better tomorrow.

While there may be no such thing as divination-fulfilling prophecy, there is such a thing as self-fulfilling prophecy. Even when an outcome was never meant to happen or was an entirely fabricated prediction, our unshakeable awareness and anticipation of that outcome in effect can cause the outcome to happen. The self-fulfilling prophecy is a very real phenomenon. Our outlook, our selves is what causes the prediction to come true, not the act of divination itself. There is a clear distinction. Divination-fulfilling prophecy claims that the objective act of divination causes an event to happen. Self-fulfilling prophecy contends that the act is and has always been arbitrary, and it is the subjective meaning we attach to that act, our outlook, that causes the prediction to come true. Self-fulfilling prophecies still occur because of free will, albeit poorly controlled free will.


The tarot is a tool, much like a calculator. A person does not need a tool to calculate the square root of a number; it can be done in the head. However, human ingenuity invented the calculator. One is now at our disposal. Why not use it? We all have the capability of calculating square roots in our heads, but not all of us are skilled enough at math to do so competently. That does not change the condition that the innate capability is still there. When we use the calculator, the tool is doing the actual calculation function, but the human is still in control of the operation and input.

The tarot is also a tool that calculates a most probable future based on the decisions we are making in the present and our current mentality. These are inputted into the tarot through personal qi. Qi is the Chinese concept of life energy. Qi runs through us connecting the disparate parts of our body into one. That is referred to as personal qi. We, then, are connected to the many disparate parts of the universe, other people, other living things, the constellations, to form an infinite one. That is referred to as cosmic qi. Cosmic qi contains the full body of truths and information of the universe. Some may consider this the god principle. It’s linked to our subconscious, which as we age, grows harder to access consciously. The so-called future and every truth we wish to know are there, in the god principle and our subconscious. We are each capable on our own of extracting those truths from the deep ravines of our minds. We do not need the tarot to know the answers, just like we do not need the calculator to compute square roots. And yet it is a very effective, very efficient, and accurate tool for tapping those ravines. Having the independent capability to calculate square roots, many of us have come to acknowledge, is very different from competently doing so without that calculator. The outcome based on the variables inputted may in one sense be fixed, but it is no divination-fulfilling prophecy. All we need to do is change the variables, and that is always within our control.

The tarot doesn’t know the future. No one does because the future does not yet exist. Instead, the tarot is a calculator. We concentrate your life energies into the cards, which represent the input variables, and the cards generate a most probable outcome based on those variables. If you don’t like the most probable outcome, all you need to do is adjust the input variables. It is like any mathematical formula. A tarot reading will guide you through the variables one by one and offer insight into what you need to do to improve your future. That is the full power and the only power of the tarot.” That is what we tell would-be seekers who express concern for the divination-fulfilling prophecy. It is a myth, we must assure them. The tarot is not fortunetelling. It is empowerment.